They were meant to be geniuses.
The day before he was inaugurated, President Trump couldn’t help bragging: The Cabinet he’d put together had “by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.” A crew that included a congressman who had been a doctor, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, a former Marine general and another doctor who would go on to be confirmed by the Senate in a unanimous vote. Trump was proud of the team he had put together.
On Wednesday, he announced that the second doctor, David Shulkin, would be leaving his position as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to be replaced with Trump’s White House physician. Shulkin joined those other three notable Cabinet members in leaving: Tom Price (the congressman-doctor), Rex Tillerson (the CEO) and John Kelly (the general). Kelly was moving to a different position in the administration. The other three were out on their ears.
And, by one measure, Kelly didn’t leave. Trump’s Cabinet is bigger than most, including not only the vice president and the heads of the 15 major administrative departments (among them the Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture) but also Kelly, as chief of staff, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the head of the Small Business Administration and others. Past presidents (including Barack Obama) have identified those additional positions as “Cabinet-ranked.”
All of the departures from Trump’s Cabinet have occurred among those 15 primary Cabinet positions — meaning that a quarter of that group is gone. That rate of turnover in the first 450 days of an administration has not been seen, by our analysis, since the administration of Gerald Ford. But Ford, unlike Trump, was not firing Cabinet members he had appointed. His ascension to the presidency was a function of Richard Nixon’s resignation; Ford’s first year or so saw a number of former Nixon appointees depart.
Only Ford and Harry Truman saw more Cabinet replacements in the first 450 days — and each took over for a predecessor who resigned from office or died in office.
But we’ve come to expect this. There are a many ways in which one can measure important officials leaving the Trump administration or his personal team of attorneys. By our analysis, though, the average time separating high-profile resignations or terminations in the Trump White House is nine days.
It had been six days since H.R. McMaster’s departure as national security adviser was announced.
The longest the administration has gone without a high-profile departure (by our measure) was 39 days. The last time we went more than a week was a month ago.
Over the weekend, there were rumors that Ben Carson, head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was also close to getting the boot. If that is in the offing, the odds are good that it — or some other high-profile departure — will happen by Friday of next week.